Ting Xu has designed novel protein-like RHP polymers that complex with enzymes to protect their structure and activity in harsh chemical environments. This can lead to new materials with prescribed fate, enhanced ability to be recycled, and green chemistry.
Ting Xu is Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, and Associate Co-Director of the Tsinghua-Berkeley-Shenzhen Institute Center for Precision Medicine and Healthcare. She received her B.S. from Dalian University of Technology in China, a M.S. from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. The Xu lab studies the hierarchical self-assembly of complex systems involving artificial proteins, block copolymers, and nanoparticles, and designs, synthesizes and characterizes novel peptides to serve as building blocks for functional biomaterials.
Ting Xu was a 2020 Bakar Prize recipient.
Area of Research
Commercialization of Polymer/Enzyme Complexes for Controlled Degradation of Plastics
Although plastics are attractive, they are lethal to our vulnerable ecosystem. Even so-called biodegradable plastics degrade slowly, and the resulting small particles can be more harmful than the intact material. Enzymes effectively digest plastics to re-useable monomers but to date can only erode polymers from the surface, rendering enzymatic degradation too slow to be technologically relevant. Ting Xu recently designed protein-like polymers, “RHPs,” that can stabilize and protect enzymes in harsh environments such as those encountered during plastic fabrication. RHPs can be incorporated into plastics by controlled dispersion during conventional processing techniques, enabling their planned spatial distribution during fabrication and removing the diffusion barrier to degradation at the end of the product’s lifespan. Her Bakar Fellows funding will enable her to optimize and scale up production of RHP-based products for use in the biomedical, food, and green plastic industries.